In this episode, Lisa talks about the diet and wellness industries; the well-meaning advice that can hurt more than it helps, the overwhelm, the pressure to do the “right” thing. She talks about her own research and experience around food and nutrition, and her philosophy that everybody is different, and needs to find their own path back to eating real, whole foods.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Hey, welcome to another episode of the podcast. It is Sunday afternoon, and I just have to warn you about two things. There’s lots of pitter patter of feet above my head. I’m downstairs, and lots of children upstairs, who we’re trying to keep away while I just take this time out to record a podcast for you.
There is a whipper snipper on in the background. Now, not too sure if there’s any suburban house in Australia who doesn’t have a whipper snipper sound happening on a Sunday afternoon. It’s kind of like the sound of the suburbs! So, apologise for that, if you can hear it.
But I really wanted to come and record this podcast, because it’s something that’s been on my mind for a little while, and I just wanted to share with you some thoughts that I’m having on this wellness industry that I seem to be a part of, weirdly, a little bit, to my surprise. But here’s the thing, right. I’m going to talk to you about a few different instances of where I’ve really felt a very big distance between ‘here’ and ‘there’.
Then I’m going to talk a little bit about the diet industry, and then, perhaps, how the two are not totally dissimilar, even although we all hate the word ‘diet’. Then I’m going to talk about a few other things. What I believe we really need to do, if we’re going to move forward on the path to-, well, you know, I can really only talk about improving the food we eat.
And some, obviously, small steps that we can take to make this a better transition. Because I’m sure if you’re listening to this podcast then you probably follow me on Facebook, you might have checked out the blog, you might have done my Small Steps programs. What you will find in all of them is this, well, it’s a way that we change behaviour without being all or nothing.
So, it’s never a promise of, ‘Here, in this next six weeks, you are going to change your life, totally 180, everything’s going to change. We’re going to solve all your problems, plus world peace.’ I never do that, because I don’t think that that’s the best way to change behaviour anyway. I actually have a background working in behaviour change, and really trying to understand behaviour change, and getting people to take steps in the direction that they want to take.
But of course, you know, we’re humans, and we have so much resistance to change. It just comes up. We like to stay safe, we like to follow the patterns that we have already established. And so, how do you get people to take those small steps?
My philosophy 100% aligns with the Kaizen approach to behaviour change. And that is really to just take small, manageable steps, right? It’s just put one foot in front of the other, start exactly where you’re at.
Where you’re at is perfect, and you can take action straight from there.
But, there have been a few instances where I’ve really felt-, and I’ve talked about them, and I was a little bit criticized for it, when I remember there were two health conferences I went to. It was probably 2015, was it? Or 2016, I can’t remember. Those years just flew! But I know one of them was Pete Evans, and then the other one was the Food Matters team.
Both people doing amazing stuff in the world, both who delivered information to me on that day that really fired me up, that really reminded me why wholefoods, and why real food. But I left there thinking there was a huge, massive, gap between where I was, and where I supposedly needed to be.
It’s not their fault. They are where they are in their health journey, and they’re sharing that with everyone, which is amazingly powerful and inspiring. If you’re listening from overseas, perhaps you haven’t heard of Pete Evans, who’s a chef, and he is the host of a very popular TV show. He went Paleo, and it solved a whole load of his issues, and he just shares his information in an eight-week program, and loads of books, and generously, on his Facebook page.
There are just so many stories of healing, and I think it’s been a wonderful thing, to open up people’s eyes to the power of food to heal. Really, that’s, for me, what the strength of Pete’s message is, is that you can look at the food that’s on your plate, and the drinks that you are drinking, and you can start right there, with some seriously chronic conditions.
But, I mean, I have a different philosophy on food to him, and that’s cool. So many of us do. And, you know, the Food Matters team, big time into doing juicing, and all of that sort of stuff, and are really on the cutting edge of interviewing people. Right there, at the forefront of science, when it comes to nutrition.
A lot of the stuff they uncover, it’s confronting for people. Because we, sort of, just want to know that what we’re doing is okay, and that we don’t have to go to such extreme lengths to feel healthy. And that’s where I sometimes feel like my path diverges, because I don’t have a strict policy on food.
I think that eating food that is real, as often as possible is going to serve us in good stead.
You know, food that our body just recognises as food, as opposed to a lot of the junk that it just doesn’t even know what to do with. But I feel like, you know, it’s cloaked in this ‘wellness’ and it’s a move away from diets.
It’s like, ditch the whole ‘calories in, calories out.’ If you’re still working that way, there’s a lot of research to back up that this is just not a great path to health. And, you know, think about the calories in an avocado, or something, versus the calories in a Mars Bar, and they’re totally different things for your body. You know, one is going to help your brain, and satiate you, and the other one’s just going to spike your sugar levels and make your body a bit confused.
I’ve never counted calories. I understand that a lot of people have had a good time, and lost weight, counting calories, but then the diet industry is one of the most powerful industries on the planet, because it’s like this recurring revenue model. It keeps you coming back for more! Because it’s unsustainable.
So, what the wellness industry comes in and does is it says, ‘Hey, you can ditch all this diet rhetoric. You can just follow this rhetoric.’ And a lot of it just is about going back to basics. In the year that I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and looked at 100 different dietary theories, and my mind was, kind of, blown with how science can prove that so many different ways to eat-, when I say that, I mean, you’ve got Atkins, you’ve got Paleo, you’ve got vegan, you’ve got low-carb, high-fat.
You’ve got loads of different theories that prove that theirs is the best way to eat. I just kept thinking, ‘For who?’ And what the institute teaches is basically, everyone is different, and you’ve got to find your own way. That really resonated with me, and I thought, ‘I can be cool with not being something in particular.’
You know, the thing that all of these theories had at their base: None of them were saying Twisties were cool. They were all basically paths back to real food, and taking into account that humans are different. You know, I am a concoction of Irish, South African, and English. My kids have all of that, plus Croatian and Australian, and we’re just this hodge-podge.
What do our genes actually want? If you think about back in the day, what Eskimos were eating, versus what the Aborigines were eating? And that their bodies were designed, and the conditions that they were living in, were perfect for the food that they ate. And they worked out how to be robust and strong, eating extremely different foods.
So, I just keep thinking, ‘Well, I just need to find the version of that, to be strong, and healthy, and well.’ But it’s so damn confusing, right? So, the wellness industry, by cloaking itself in this, ‘Ditch the diets, just eat real food,’ kind of feels like a diet to a lot of people. Kind of feels extreme, when you look at the society that we’re living in.
Now, I think that the aim of eating real whole foods most of the time is an awesome one. It’s a path I’m choosing, to try and help me navigate towards feeling as best as I can. And, you know, with my kids, I look at the foods, and I think, ‘How real is this? Will their bodies recognise this as food?’ It has been my mantra all the way through my Small Steps programs.
How real is this? Just really getting back to basics, and then just using that as my guiding light.
But here’s the thing. We’ve kind of, now, moved from, ‘Calories in, calories out. Don’t do that,’ but more into, kind of, ‘Toxins in, and toxins out.’ There’s this horrible dichotomy, when you know what you know about food. When you’ve been on the path, when you’ve watched a few docos.
You know, when you understand what sugar does, or artificial colours and preservatives, or even when you look at some of those documentaries about meat, or wheat. And some of those big ticket items, dairy. Suddenly, when you know what you want to do, or you think you know what you should do, but you’re not doing it. It’s this horrible conundrum.
I wonder if it’s as toxic for our mind as the diet industry. Maybe a bit controversial for me to say? Not sure. But when I saw Danielle LaPorte a few weeks ago, a month ago, can’t remember. Not great with dates and times, as the weeks just continue to roll! But she said, about the self-help industry in general, ‘Is it making you feel free and well?’ And I thought, ‘That’s a really, really great question.’
Because I wonder how many people who, you know, we do all the research, we do the programs, we learn the stuff, we follow the peeps, we buy the books. Is this leading to us feeling empowered? I hope so, and I love to stay in that lane as much as I can. But, is it also a bit overwhelming? Is it stress inducing? Is it guilt inducing?
Because stress is so toxic. So many systems in our body do not appreciate when we’re stressed. Our digestive system is one of them, and it throws everything out, when we’ve got the stress response going on. I should do a podcast with someone, on stress, because what I can see is that if we have a toxic mind, we have a toxic body.
If we’re worried all the time about the food that we’re eating, and it’s so hard, when we see what our kids are eating, when they’re out on the traps at birthday parties, or whatever it is. We don’t want to be the horrible parents, but we kind of know what we know about food. It can create a toxic space in our life, and I just wanted to say that when you feel this starting to happen, I wanted to share with you something that I realised when I was listening to a podcast yesterday.
I was cleaning out the kids’ damn cupboards. Oh man, I needed to do a big, big, cleanout. It was stressing me out, just putting clothes away, because it was just being put on top of piles of clothes that I knew I needed to do a bit of a cull, now they’ve had a growth spurt.
Anyway, I was listening to the Rich Roll podcast, and he is a vegan, and a really elite athlete on the vegan, plant-powered diet. I love listening to him. He talks to really interesting people, and this is the thing, I’m so interested in people’s paths, and I’m open-minded about it, even if it doesn’t feel like something I want to do. But he can say things that really trigger me.
He said something once about gluten that really got me. But it’s good, because we need to have these shifts in our awareness, we need to attach ourselves to people who are going to teach us things when we do want to improve our health. But we have to be careful about who we’re receiving the information from.
What I realised, when I was listening to Rich, and his wife, I think it’s Julie, or Julia. They were doing a Q&A from Paddington Town Hall in Sydney, actually, and he’s an American guy, but they’d been out for an event. It was just a Q&A, and what they were sharing was more about what got them there. His massive resistance to his wife’s lifestyle.
He was really overweight, and we can know these stories, that people have gone from where we are to where we want to be. So, we’re like, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I want.’ But most of the time, we’re comparing ourselves to where they are now, which leaves us with this feeling that we’re not good enough, or we’re not doing it right, or we’re failures.
When I was listening to them, just discussing their path, I realised it was a really messy journey. It was full of resistance, and trial and error. They have children, and their children, I think, they were raised as vegans, but they’re allowed to try whatever they want to try. If they go to birthday parties and eat the cakes, and they come home, and they feel sick, they just talk about it. The kids are a bit older.
What I sort of saw was, you know, we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that everyone is trying this in really difficult and trying circumstances. You know, we’re all surrounded by the food marketing, we’re all surrounded by people who don’t give a toss about what they’re eating. That’s totally fine, and their path, but when you do, it’s just, we’ve got a lifetime of bad habits, dodgy habits. I don’t want to say good or bad, but we’ve all eaten food. Most of us, anyway.
So, sometimes when people are doing my programs, they want a hard line. They really want to just decide to eat wholefoods, and that is it. Then they fall of the wagon, and then we have to remind them, and everyone always does, that it’s small steps.
If you take that approach, it feels really different, and you get much further, because you never have to fall off the wagon.
Because everything’s just a big experiment, and we just accept that life goes up and down.
But, I wonder, sometimes, if people follow me and think I’ve got it all sorted, and use me as an example to say that they’re not doing well enough, or that their kids don’t eat that, or something.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to say, I don’t have that sorted. No way, José. I mean, I know, I hear it from some people, where they’re like, ‘You don’t have to be perfect,’ and whatever. But I’m like, ‘But you are, so why can’t I be?’ And I don’t believe them, because all I see from them is perfection. Or, that’s, sort of, what I can see.
So, I just wanted to say that if you’re feeling the same feels as you did, maybe, when you were stuck in that diet. ‘Need to lose weight, I’m a failure. Well, I’ve ruined that day, I might as well eat the ice cream after dinner,’ when you are trying to eat cleaner, or more wholefoods, and less of the processed and packaged foods.
We need to get so, so, so much better at self-love. Sounds airy fairy. Loving ourselves anyway. We need to get better at ignoring that nasty voice that’s beating up on us. We need to get better at realising that that is life, and every meal is a chance to go, ‘Hmm, might choose something awesome!’
And that there are going to be times in your life when you are bang on this food thing. You are there, you are in it, you are loving it, you’re feeling the best. You’re telling all your friends this is the way to go. And then there are going to be other times when you’re just not. And I have those times, a lot.
I have three children, six and under, and run my own business, and all the things. So, food isn’t high on my priority list all the time. But I guess what I’ve done is I’ve just kept at it, over the last five years. I’ve just built up a repertoire of recipes, or things that I know, that I can trust, in the supermarket or whatever.
I mean, I don’t buy loads in the supermarket. Even that, just building up my shopping, to be able to buy pantry staples, and then be able to then buy fruit and veg, and some good meat, at the markets, and build food from that. My food is not complicated, but I just try to use that, ‘Is this real? Will my body recognise this as food?’ barometer, as much as I can.
And the rest of the time? I’m giving myself a break, and I’m realising that the people who’ve had to go down those more extreme paths to wellness have done it for a damn good reason. Their body was begging them to. They needed to do something, they were on pain medication, or they had some sort of an illness that required big time dietary change. Or, they were, maybe, overweight, underweight. They had intolerances.
There are so many reasons why people go hard, and there are going to be times in my life, I’m sure, I’ll do that. But it will be like a tweaking job, because I will have come back to basics as much as I can. But I can’t compare myself, and my consistency, perhaps, is a good word, with the people who have gone down that path, and have had to really look at, and redesign their whole life.
I believe there’s a place for balance in all of this. I believe that wellness is of body and mind. Hugely, mind. And that as we navigate this path towards something that feels better for us, because that’s what we want, really.
I’m not aiming to be like anybody else out there, I’m just aiming to work out how Lisa Corduff lives, and how she, and her family, navigate this world of craziness with food.
Because it kind of is, when you start to open your eyes and realise that most of that food in the supermarket, it’s kind of dead, it’s not real. And it’s created in factories that do not care about my family as much as I do. That is confronting, that is what drives me to continue creating, and sharing, simple recipes. And also telling people that this ain’t done perfectly around here.
There are shortcuts, and there are days when I feel hungover and just want the chips. I want all the chips. So, when we feel like there’s a huge, big gap between ‘here’ and ‘there’, my small step approach is to appreciate exactly where I am. Appreciate that I’ve had my little wake-up call. Appreciate that life is never meant to be linear, that this is not just going to be something that I jump onto, and happens with ease. Or, you know, in a straight line. It’s just not.
If I’m cool with that, and if I allow myself to have this be a process, then I won’t develop a toxic mind, guilt ravaged living, and that huge amount of overwhelm that I think so many people can feel when they jump on in.
I hope that what I offer in my membership and programs, and via this podcast, and on Facebook, and the blog, is just a constant reminder that you’re freaking amazing, and so am I, in all of our imperfection, and all of our imperfect striving. And in our moments where we just need some sleep, and when we feel defeated, and when we feel like life is just getting on top of us.
Take a freaking load off, and just come back, and take another step, when you feel like you are ready, and like it’s something that you can fit into your life. So, I don’t want this wellness industry, that really is trying so hard to bring people’s awareness to the power of food to heal. The craziness that is what we actually think of as food, and just to empower people to make choices that make them feel awesome.
I don’t want that to get lost in a feeling of us and them, or ‘It’s just way too big a jump.’ Because there is a different way, and you can take small steps. From what I’ve seen, from all my students who continue on their path, and that ‘small steps’ mantra really sinks into their brain. They’re the ones kicking it.
In a year’s time, they’re like, ‘I cannot believe what has changed over the course of this year.’ Because it almost wasn’t intentional, they just let themselves be lead by their curiosity. They just experimented when they could. It’s a magical process.
So, this is what I wanted to say, for now. It’s my little, I guess, unique part of the conversation. If ever you’re feeling dis-empowered, then just remind yourself, you’re amazing. And just let it be small steps. Bye for now.